Charles H. Townes Quotes

Charles Hard Townes (July 28, 1915 – January 27, 2015) was an American physicist and inventor of the maser and laser. Townes was known for his work concerning the theory and application of the maser, for which he obtained the fundamental patent, and other work in quantum electronics associated with both maser and laser devices. He shared the Nobel Prize in Physics during 1964 with Nikolay Basov and Alexander Prokhorov. Charles was also a major advisor to the United States Government, meeting every US President from Harry Truman (1945) to William Clinton (1999). One of the most notable committees he directed for the US government was the Science and Technology Advisory Committee for the Apollo flights, which was effective at making the program a success on schedule without exceeding its budget. After becoming a professor of the University of California at Berkeley during 1967, he began an astrophysical program that produced several important discoveries, for example the black hole at the center of the Milky Way Galaxy. Townes was religious and believed that science and religion are converging to provide a greater understanding of the nature and purpose of the universe.

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Charles H. Townes


The imposing edifice of science provides a challenging view of what can be achieved by the accumulation of many small efforts in a steady objective and dedicated search for truth.

Charles H. Townes


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We can't avoid age. However, we can avoid some aging. Continue to do things. Be active. Life is fantastic in the way it adjusts to demands; if you use your muscles and mind, they stay there much longer.

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In many cases, people who win a Nobel prize, their work slows down after that because of the distractions. Yes, fame is rewarding, but it's a pity if it keeps you from doing the work you are good at.

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The development of science is basically a social phenomenon, dependent on hard work and mutual support of many scientists and on the societies in which they live.

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Much public thinking follows a rut. The same thing is true in science. People get stuck and don't look in other directions.

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There is some truth to the idea that, in the fields of science, individual contributions of great significance are possible.

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One of the things my family taught me - I think very important in religion and science - is that you must be ready to stand up for what you think. Decide what you really think is best, and stick with it.

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Alfred Nobel really understood very well the necessary supra-natural character of the human enterprise.

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Science has faith. We make postulates. We can't prove those postulates, but we have faith in them.

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I don't think that science is complete at all. We don't understand everything, and one can see, within science itself, there are many inconsistencies. We just have to accept that we don't understand.

Charles H. Townes


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Science is exploration. The fundamental nature of exploration is that we don't know what's there. We can guess and hope and aim to find out certain things, but we have to expect surprises.

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It was strange, in a way, because there were no ideas involved in the laser that weren't already known by somebody 25 years before lasers were discovered. The ideas were all there; just, nobody put it together.

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I was very eager to produce an oscillator for short waves. I was doing science with microwaves, and I would get down to a few millimetres in wavelength, but I wanted to get shorter wavelengths; I wanted to get into the infra-red because I saw there was a lot more to be done there.

Charles H. Townes


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I knew I wanted to be a scientist. Which kind of scientist was the question.

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I was brought up as Christian, and while my ideas have changed, I have always felt myself religiously oriented.

Charles H. Townes


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